Six more shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe
A solo show about sex, a multimedia odyssey about gay club culture, a comedy about hoarding, a Scottish stage legend, and more…
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
This issue is one of twelve specials I will be sending out during July and August, all focused on shows performing at the Edinburgh Fringe. Each issue will highlight five shows worth watching - three picked by me, plus a couple of promotional ones, too.
Some issues will be themed, some won’t be. Some shows I will have seen and loved myself, some I will just have heard good things about. All of them, though, will be made by exciting, mostly emerging/early-career artists.
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Katie Arnstein’s Sticky Door first ran at VAULT Festival in February 2020, shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic kicked off. It has finally arrived in Edinburgh two-and-a-bit years later, the final part of Arntein’s trilogy that began with 2018’s Bicycles and Fish and continued with 2019’s Sexy Lamp.
Like both those previous shows, Sticky Door is an autobiographical, storytelling solo show, with added ukulele songs. Its title comes from the term coined by Minouch Shafik to describe the societal barriers faced by women, and it follows the journey Arnstein has been on since her 2014 decision to have more no-strings-attached sex, and the impact that decision had on her health.
Again, like its forerunners, it is directed by Ellen Havard – who also staged Fran Bushe’s supremely funny Ad Libido – and, like its forerunners, it mixes humour, honesty, and heart to good effect. The Stage’s Natasha Tripney called it “highly watchable, witty, empathetic and justifiably angry.”
This year’s winner of the prestigious Les Enfants Terribles Award for emerging theatre companies, No Place Like Home from Alex Roberts & Co. is a one-man show that fuses spoken word, music, dance and video into a tragic odyssey about gay club culture – and the violence that can invade it.
Co-created by Roberts, Cameron Carver and Jac Cooper with video design from Virginie Taylor, the show follows two men through one night gone wrong in a gay bar: Connor, there for the first time, and Robert, behind the bar.
Mixing stunning visuals and extraordinary audio with a complex and compelling narrative, No Place Like Home is a powerful and poetic exploration of queer politics, featuring a charismatic central performance from Roberts. Previous winners of the LET Award have gone on to do great things: Roberts surely will too.
Written by publicist-turned-playwright Laura Horton and produced by Pleasance and Theatre Royal Plymouth, Breathless is a sharp and sensitive one-woman play that explores the issue of hoarding – something often associated with old men filling their homes with newspapers but which can actually affect anyone, and which was recently classified as a mental illness by the World Health Organisation.
Based on Horton’s own experiences, Breathless follows Sophie, a thirty-something who can’t stop buying nice clothes, as she starts a new relationship and struggles to be honest about her addiction to fashion. It features Madeleine MacMahon as Sophie and is directed by Stephanie Kempson.
Breathless has already turned heads at this year’s festival. Last week, it won one of The Scotsman’s prestigious Fringe First Awards. The Guardian’s Mark Fisher called it “as absorbing as it is sensitive” and, writing in The Stage, the legendary Lyn Gardner called it a “painfully funny” play that “promises bigger things from Horton.”
Last year, the Pleasance’s Generate Fund for Black, Asian and Global Majority artists supported one of the best shows of the festival in Martha Watson Allpress’ Patricia Gets Ready (For A Date With The Man That Used To Hit Her). This year, it is supporting another one-woman play that is set to cause a stir: Kieton Saunders-Browne’s Block’d Off.
Written by Saunders-Browne, starring Camila Segal, and produced by Pleasance, Wooden Arrow Productions and El Gordo Theatre, Block’d Off is a hard-hitting exploration of what it really means to be working-class in London in 2022. Based on real people and real experiences, the show tells the stories of several working-class Londoners, digging beneath the stereotypes to expose the actual individuals underneath.
“Aside from sold-out shows and all the awards Edinburgh can offer, we really hope that people come away from Block’d Off looking at working-class struggles differently,” says Saunders-Browne. “The team has literally put our lives and souls into this production, and we want audiences to come along and see that hard work. Awards and money for the next run would be good, too!”
This is promotional content.
Kerala-born, East Lothian-based actor, writer and theatremaker Annie George is a legend of the Scottish performing arts industry, and she returns to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with a double-bill of critically acclaimed shows – the first two parts of the Resilience trilogy – playing, captioned, on alternate nights at Summerhall as part of the Made In Scotland Showcase.
Home Is Not The Place was last performed at the Traverse Theatre in February 2020, and is adapted from her earlier play, The Bridge. In this new production, directed by Gerry Mulgrew of the iconic Scottish company Communicado, and designed by Morvern Mulgrew, the solo show sees George explore her own ancestry, and creative roots through the life and legacy of her Indian grandfather, the writer PM John. The Scotsman’s Joyce McMillan called it an “exceptionally powerful” story of “empire and migration.”
Twa, meanwhile, premiered in 2018, and explores something else entirely. Created in collaboration with visual artist Flore Gardner, directed by Saffy Setohy, it blends three stories about women being silenced – a contemporary tale, an ancient myth, and a visual narrative. George and Gardner are on stage together throughout, the former performs a poetic text, based on her own experiences and interwoven with the Greek myth of Philomela, while Gardner silently accompanies her with live performance drawing. “We would love to start conversations about touring both shows internationally,” says producer Diljeet Bhachu. “Annie has been fighting to be heard for a long time, and it feels like people are finally listening.”
This is promotional content.
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